Nicholson said Bush’s chief of staff, Andy Card, asked him weeks in advance to be the designated survivor. It only became known publicly on the day of the address.

That night, a helicopter flew him to a hidden meeting place where he was briefed about his duties in a drab command center-like room. For dinner, he ate a “delicious steak,” he said. The TV was tuned into the State of the Union.

Government workers gave Nicholson a rundown of what would happen should calamity strike.

“You kind of drill it and role-play ahead of time,” he said. “They call you Mr. President.”

He said he was chosen as designated survivor because he was involved with the Bush administration’s ongoing contingency planning, which became paramount after the events of 9/11.